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Tour de Penn shopping program circumvents the "Penn detour"

The multimillion-dollar Penn Avenue reconstruction project has been a detriment to the Bloomfield and Garfield communities where the one-way detour has inhibited traffic and hidden local shops behind barricades.
 
“Our businesses have suffered pretty substantially during this process,” said Amber Epps, Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation commercial district manager.  “[We’re] trying to get some business back to Penn Avenue.”
 
But the BGC, with help from the Urban Redevelopment Authority of Pittsburgh, is working with businesses to bring foot traffic back to the impeded mom-and-pop shops between Mathilda and Evaline streets along Penn Avenue.
 
The URA-sponsored “Biz Buzz” program Tour de Penn -- a play on “Penn detour” -- kicked off on Dec. 6 and will run through the holidays until Feb. 14, 2015. Patrons who visit construction-affected businesses along Penn Avenue can receive rewards.
 
To participate, pick up a map and attached passport at businesses outside the construction zone. This neighborhood passport is the ticket for participants to win “Penn Bucks” or gift cards to participating Penn Avenue businesses.
 
Visitors can receive one passport stamp just for stopping in at businesses within the construction zone. Make a purchase of $5 or more at these businesses and get an extra stamp.
 
Participants who earn 10 stamps will be entered into a weekly raffle for a $25 gift card; those earning 20 or more stamps will be entered into a $50 gift card raffle. Each week, four gift cards will be raffled off. They can be used at any business on Penn Avenue between Mathilda Street and Negley Avenue.
 
Epps recommends holiday shoppers head to businesses including Mostly Mod & ARTica Gallery, Most Wanted Fine Art, Modern Formations gallery, Verde Mexican Kitchen and Cantina, Robin’s Nest and the Pittsburgh Glass Center for passport stamps and gift-giving ideas.
 
Two-way traffic is expected to return at the end of December, Epps said, explaining that construction will continue in the spring with sidewalk and landscaping improvements that are projected to be completed July 31, 2015.
 
Tour de Penn visitors are also encouraged to use social media, posting images with hashtags #tourdepenn and #proudtobepenn. Visit www.pennavenue.org for more information, as well as to find out which business will be highlighted each week -- shopping at highlighted businesses will earn an extra stamp.
 
Source: Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation, Amber Epps 

Bloomfield welcomes 4121 Main, a mixed-use arts space and espresso bar

4121 Main, a mixed-use space featuring quality handmade items, curated vintage wares, art and an espresso bar, is coming to Bloomfield. The 4121 Main venture is a partnership among Thommy Conroy and Quelcy Kogel, the stylists behind Harvest & Gather, and local coffee expert Kira Hoeg.
 
The 4121 Main brand premiered at the curated Trade Union trunk show, where it provided pour-over coffees, whole-grain baked goods, prints and artisan products. While the shop is not yet open for regular business hours, 4121 Main’s will join with Unblurred for its first public event on Nov. 7. The partners behind 4121 Main invite Pittsburghers to enjoy an evening of art and Conroy’s new series of alphabet prints with a dark, fairy-tale theme, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 4121 Main St.
 
The space is a creative collaboration that will feature curated products with a common theme or style while providing quality coffee and espresso and whole-grain baked goods. 4121 Main will also host events, workshops and local happenings.
 
When 4121 Main does open with daily hours, the partners envision an evolving space influenced by their personal passions, experiences and seasonal baking and coffee products. Sometimes the shop may offer handmade ceramics, on other visits patrons may peruse a selection of vintage finds. The group promises quality products for the customer who shops with intention.
 
The varied influences come from Conroy, Kogel and Hoeg’s backgrounds, travels and interests. Conroy described the partnership as taking their available skills and creating a larger picture.  
 
Hoeg has an anthropology background and sees coffee as a cultural pastime. In addition to her experience with Pittsburgh coffee and espresso bars, she has traveled from Scandinavia to Turkey to California to explore how people are communicating with coffee and what other coffee and espresso retailers are doing in the United States.
 
“Exchanging time and moments has always been my interest in coffee,” Hoeg said about the type of atmosphere she envisions at 4121 Main, adding the she wants to create a coffee culture inviting ideas, dialogue and curiosity. Also important to Hoeg is the transparency of where the coffee was grown and the craft of roasting it. She will be sourcing from Heart Coffee in Portland and will be working on an espresso machine hand-built in Holland.
 
Kogel will provide the baked goods to accompany the espresso bar. She currently chronicles her passion for baking with whole grains and natural ingredients on her blog With the Grains. She said she hopes to offer cakes and breads that are “a wholesome way to satisfy your sweet tooth.”
 
Harvest & Gather’s Conroy and Kogel will rebrand under the 4121 Main moniker and will offer event-design services. Conroy described the group as “natural hosts and entertainers” and said this aspect will be part of 4121’s model.
 
The collaborative setting will also feature workshops and have a DIY-inspired element. The partners said they hope to offer how-to sessions from floral arrangements to entertaining and decorating tips.
 
The first event will be held on Friday, Nov. 7, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 4121 Main St. in Bloomfield between Liberty and Penn avenues.
 

 

Landmarks Community Capital Corporation awards $99,000 loan to Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation

Landmarks Community Capital Corporation, a nonprofit lending subsidiary of Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, closed on a $99,000 construction loan to the Bloomfield-Garfield Corporation in September to renovate its storied community center.
 
The loan will provide rehabilitation funds for BGC's community center, located on North Pacific Avenue in Garfield. This building, a former Methodist church constructed in 1898, serves as a primary meeting place for public events in the Garfield community.
 
Rick Swartz, BGC executive director, explained that the Landmarks Community Capital Corporation was interested in the community center as an important part of the neighborhood. Although the 19th-century church is not a certified historic landmark, the building has a lot of history, Swartz said.
 
“It is something of a historical asset in the neighborhood,” Swartz said. 
 
The first phase of building improvements include: new flooring in the main hall, window replacements, heating and cooling upgrades, new entry doors, painting and enhanced lighting. Exterior brickwork, window replacements and outdoor painting are also planned to enhance the building as a visible part of the neighborhood.
 
The BGC serves Bloomfield, Garfield and Friendship; the center provides programming for those communities, including a BGC children’s summer camp. Swartz says these improvements will benefit events and programming.
 
He said renovations will make the space more attractive for neighbors seeking a family-friendly venue. He said he hopes the upgrades to lighting and lower-volume heating and cooling can attract more professional and job orientation sessions. The improved temperature systems will also help with costs to the nonprofit.
 
Swartz said it is difficult to find grants and gifts for building improvements of this kind. But the loan from the Landmarks Community Capital Corporation is helping the BGC get started.  Swartz noted that the Urban Redevelopment Authority did assist the BGC with a $5,000 grant for community center renovations. And, he said, Garfield resident and architect Gary Cirrincione is lending a hand by assisting in plans and overseeing construction.
 
“We’re just trying to make it … a space you feel very comfortable in,” Swartz said, adding that he hopes neighbors see it as a place for meetings, baby showers and anniversary parties in the future.
 
Construction on the BGC community center should be completed December 2014.
 
Source: Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation, Rick Swartz

Locals create Indiegogo campaign to save Bloomfield sandwich shop

Mama Ros’ Sandwich Shop customers have taken to Indiegogo.com, a crowdfunding website, to help the local business known for helping others.
 
When Jonathan Tai and Jon Potter grabbed lunch at Mama Ros’ (also known as The Bloomfield Sandwich Shop), the two men ended up making new friends and leaving with a mission.
 
While eating at Mama Ros,’ Tai and Potter met the Mama and the Papa themselves, Rosalyn Dukes and her partner Mike Miller. In a video on the Indiegogo page, Tai states, “Just as in Game of Thrones, the winter has been long and hard, and now they need our help.”
 
Tai added in a phone call that the winter business was slow and the shop is in need of a boost to help with operating costs.
 
He said the restaurant has a reputation for wanting to feed everyone, even those who can’t always afford it. And, this campaign can help Dukes and Miller continue to do just that.
 
In the video, Tai introduces the shop’s famous Thanksgiving meals.
 
“We try every year, as best we can, to serve as many people as we can a free Thanksgiving dinner,” Dukes says.
 
She added that patrons are welcome to eat in the diner or they can take the traditional turkey dinner home with them. Last November, Mama Ros’ served more than 200 Thanksgiving meals — using 15, 20-pound turkeys.
 
“It’s for everybody,” Miller adds. “College kids that can’t come home. People that have families who just can’t, right now, afford to have a good turkey dinner.”
 
This spirit is what led Tai and Potter to volunteer to create the online fundraiser and lend their professional services as prizes for donating to the campaign.  
 
Tai is a magician and Potter is a paraglider. Ten $100 donors can receive a 20-minute magic performance from Tai. Potter is giving away paragliding lessons to ten $150 donors. Yes, Potter is the Pittsburgh paraglider who made news for his goal to paraglide off the Seven Wonders of the World — including Machu Picchu.
 
Tai said local response has been great so far and he noted that Pittsburgh rallied behind the restaurant after a fire a couple of years ago. He said people know the shop and have continued to support it.
 
“It’s about so much more than just food. It’s about community,” he says.
 
 
Source: Jonathan Tai, Indiegogo “Saving Mama Ros' Sandwich Shop”

The Penguins and the City announce a dek hockey rink in bloomfield

Mayor William Peduto announced plans last week for a new outdoor dek hockey rink in Bloomfield Park. The arena will be built in partnership with the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation’s Project Power Play program.
 
Project Power Play is a three-year plan that began in 2012. The Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation and Highmark teamed up on a $2.1 million project to build 12 dek hockey rinks in the Pittsburgh area. The Bloomfield rink will be the fourth facility built by the Penguins and the city, following others in Banksville, Brookline and Hazelwood.

Dek hockey is essentially street hockey, played without skates or ice and often using a ball in place of a puck.
 
“Part of the reason for the Penguins Foundation is to get kids off the couch and exercising, and to value sports and competitiveness and the lessons they learn through sports,” says Penguins President David Morehouse, who played street hockey growing up in Beechview. “Physical activity and education is what we’re focused on.”
 
The project is designed to give young hockey players access to newly constructed, outdoor, multi-use athletic facilities. These structures provide safe areas to play games under the supervision of established organizations, according to the mayor’s office.
 
“We do everything we can as an organization to fulfill the needs of the community as far as helping kids see if they really want to pursue ice hockey," says Pittsburgh Penguins Foundation President David Soltesz. "That’s why we do the deks, the equipment in the schools, why we have the YMCA programs — trying to nurture our sport and trying to help these kids.”

The dek location will be adjacent to Officer Paul J. Sciullo II Memorial Field. The Sciullo family was in attendance when Mayor Peduto announced the rink.
 
“This facility will be built as a legacy to a community that has invested heavily into the sport, and it will be in the shadow of Paul Sciullo Field, recognizing a great life, a great person and a great athlete,” Peduto says. “We want to give to other kids the same opportunities that Paul had to help guide his life and follow in his footsteps.”
 
Construction is expected to start in June and be completed in October. Existing bocce courts and a playground will be moved slightly and a new parking lot will be built under the Bloomfield Bridge. The project cost is roughly $800,000.
 
A map of the site is available here.

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Office of Mayor William Peduto

Bloomfield Saturday Market will launch next month with local product and handmade crafts

The Bloomfield Development Corporation will launch The Bloomfield Saturday market next month. The fresh event will boast local produce, handcrafted products and entertainment geared towards a regional audience.

The market, set to launch May 31, will be held every Saturday until November from 8AM to 1PM at 5050 Liberty Avenue, which is a parking lot owned by West Penn Hospital. 

"The Bloomfield Saturday Market will be a great event, while also providing residents with the opportunity to purchase good, healthy food," said BDC board chairperson Joey Vallarian. "Community health, both the health of the brick and mortar neighborhood as well as the health of its residents, is very important to the BDC, and we think the Bloomfield Saturday Market will help accomplish these goals."
 
Christina Howell, BDC program manager, called the market “eclectic and lively” with vendors who create and package their own food — teas, olive oils, baked goods — in addition to standard farmers market fare. There will also be jewelers and artists selling handmade goods.
 
The market will also feature music and dance performances, health screenings, nutrition information, cooking demonstrations and healthy recipes that can be made from the week’s featured food items. Howell noted that she is also working on a program where teens can harvest urban farms and then sell their fruits at the market.
 
Howell said she hopes to foster a community atmosphere where market-goers can sit and stay awhile. She added that the focus on health, nutrition and access to local produce aid in a healthier Bloomfield.
 
The BDC is currently accepting applications from farmers and vendors for the Saturday Market. Interested vendors should visit www.bloomfieldsaturdaymarket.org or contact Howell at christina@bloomfieldnow.com or 412-708-1277. 

Writer: Caroline Gerdes
Source: Bloomfield Development Corporation, Christina Howell
 

Eat + Drink: Fish, fireplaces, macarons by mail

Eat + Drink is Pop City’s weekly look at epic local nommz.

Toro Fest 2013
Bloomfield’s Fukuda, which celebrated its first anniversary in October, is hosting its first annual Toro Fest this week, with a full calendar of events scheduled through next Monday. Named for the Japanese term for fatty Bluefin tuna, Toro Fest isn’t just a celebration of the food itself, but of fish and sustainability on the whole.

Throughout the week, Fukuda will offer sessions on Japanese culture and language at the restaurant, and end the week by taking over No Menu Monday at Bar Marco on December 16th.

For more information, check out Fukuda’s Toro Fest calendar or the event’s Facebook page.
 
Macarons by mail
Gaby et Jules, the French patisserie on Forbes Avenue in Squirrel Hill which started this year as a joint venture between Paris 66 owners Fred and Lori Rongier and Master Pastry Chef David Piquard, has opened up an online store and begun taking orders for its deservedly celebrated macarons.

In addition to its normal range of flavors, Piquard has rolled out a holiday line which includes gingerbread, peppermint white chocolate, Orangette (chocolate and orange, Eat + Drink’s favorite), chestnut and egg nog — a flavor Piquard was initially skeptical of, but which was made at Lori Rongier’s urging and much to our delight.

To ensure the macarons arrive fresh, Gaby et Jules ships only Monday through Wednesday and utilizes USPS Priority Mail.
 
Get inside, get warm
Today’s high is under 30°. Tomorrow’s is under 20°. But are you really going to let that keep you from enjoying your weeknight happy hour? Consider joints with fireplaces:

For drinks, stop by 1947 Tavern on Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside. Monterey Pub in the North Side’s Mexican War Streets district is another cozy option. A few blocks away, Max’s Allegheny Tavern offers German fare by an old fireplace. Toast! offers excellent food and great wine in a beautiful old building in Shadyside which has fireplaces on all three stories. Eat + Drink’s favorite, though, is The Oak Room — the hotel bar inside the Mansions on Fifth. It’s seldom crowded unless there’s an event, and it’s easily one of the five coziest rooms in the city.

Writer: Matthew Wein

Pittsburgh Brewing Company names Brian Walsh new CEO

Uni-World Capital, the private equity firm that owns the Pittsburgh Brewing Company and all of the Iron City Brands, has tapped career beverage executive Brian Walsh to run the iconic local operation.

He succeeds interim CEO Rob Matteucci, who had served in the role since May.

“Brian was the ideal candidate,” Scott Porter of Uni-World says. “He has a strong beer-specific background, a strong background in understanding and working in local markets, and he has a lot of experience in the Pittsburgh area specifically.”

Walsh spent the past six years as president and CEO of the Long Trail Brewing Company in Bridgewater Corners, Vt. During Walsh’s tenure at Long Trail, the microbrewery increased its shipment volume by 123 percent and more than doubled its revenue. Walsh also oversaw Long Trail’s acquisition of the Otter Creek Brewing Company and its Wolaver’s Certified Organic brands in 2010.

\Walsh is no stranger to the Pittsburgh beer market. Prior to taking over Otter Creek, he served as a regional vice president with Labatt USA, during which he managed Rolling Rock’s relationship with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Pittsburgh was also part of his territory while working as a regional sales manager for Guinness.

“[Walsh] understands the importance of Iron City to the Pittsburgh community and how to translate that into profitable, sustainable growth,” Porter says. “The Pittsburgh community wants Iron City to succeed. We want this brand to succeed and we want to do it the right way.”

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Scott Porter

City debuts first green bike lane in Bloomfield

Last week, Pittsburgh joined the growing number of cities with green lanes — dedicated bike lanes separate from the rest of the street and easily identifiable by color.

A 200-foot stretch of road on Liberty Avenue near the Bloomfield Bridge is the first color-coded, dedicated bike lane the city has installed since painting blue lanes on the Birmingham Bridge in 2007.

The project was made possible with a $23,000 grant from Bikes Belong, a national cycling advocacy organization of retailers and suppliers. Pittsburgh became eligible to apply for the grant after sending a delegation which included city and county officials to a conference in Minneapolis.

“Minneapolis wanted to have us learn more from them,” says Bike Pittsburgh Executive Director Scott Bricker. “Against all odds, we have a great bike community here.”

Color-coded bike lanes in areas which see high car and bike traffic help make drivers, cyclists and pedestrians more aware of the spaces they occupy, and reduce the chance of conflict in areas that might otherwise be confusing to motorists — such as where Liberty Avenue turns from two lanes to four near Main Street and the Bloomfield Bridge.

The lane coloration isn’t standard road striping paint, but a mixture of thermoplastic and epoxy, designed to be slip-resistant and last between three and five years — significantly longer than standard road paint.
 
Bricker says he hopes the city will soon adopt color uniformity for more bike lanes so that there is even less confusion.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Source: Scott Bricker

Eat + Drink: Outdoor dining spots and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of restaurant and food news.

Cure, Chef Justin Severino’s Lawrenceville restaurant, has obtained a liquor license. While the restaurant will offer a full-service bar, its full menu of wines and specialty cocktails won’t be ready for another few weeks. “Right now, they’re just testing some stuff out,” says restaurant spokesperson Gita McCutcheon.

- A new addition to Pittsburgh’s food truck scene, the PGH Crepes cart sets up at the corner of Penn Avenue and 20th Street on weekends and makes its way around town during the week.

“We really like the carts in general. We think it speaks well the entrepreneurial spirit of Pittsburgh,” says Leigh White of the Pittsburgh Downtown Partnership. “It’s a new twist on things, and a nice compliment to the many restaurants downtown.”

To find the crepe cart, follow it on Twitter @pghcrepes.

Waffalonia, the Squirrel Hill-based makers of Belgian-style Liège waffles, will open a kiosk in Schenley Plaza in mid-May.

And now that the weather is good, it’s time to dine outdoors. Here are some of the latest openings:

Make Your Mark Artspace & Coffeehouse in Point Breeze opened its serene back patio last week.

The garden portion of Pusadee’s Garden in Lawrenceville is ethereal and lovely.

The partially re-done patio at Kelly’s Lounge in East Liberty is open, as is the spacious back patio at Lawrenceville’s Round Corner Cantina.

Marty’s Market in the Strip has tables around the outside of its corner location, as well as stools at its garage-door coffee counter.

Orange chairs adorn the patio at Verde Mexican Kitchen & Cantina.

The Porch in Oakland has some of Pittsburgh’s best outdoor seating, and plenty to go around with school out for the summer.

Biddle’s Escape, a coffee shop tucked away off the main drag in Regent Square, has a spacious and tree-shaded deck.

And Il Pizzaiolo, in both Market Square and Mt. Lebanon has outdoor spaces. In the Mt. Lebanon location, the charming terrace in the back just opened and in Market Square, you'll find tables outside the new location next to Starbucks.

Writer: Matthew Wein
Sources: Gita McCutcheon, Leigh White

Eat + Drink: Nicky's Thai Kitchen, Sinful Sweets, Rose Tea Cafe, and The Grateful Deli

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene.


Since our last update on Nicky’s Thai Kitchen, one of the Northside’s most popular restaurants, its second location has opened in Downtown Pittsburgh.

The interior is decorated with artwork and statues from Thailand, an atmosphere manager Dave Brunner says is like a Thai art gallery.  The space, originally built for a bank, had most recently housed a pizza shop and art gallery.

Unlike the original Northside location, the downtown restaurant will not be BYOB.  But while the full-service bar is still under development patrons are welcome to bring their own alcohol without any corkage fee.

The new restaurant is open for dinner seven days a week, as well as lunch Monday through Saturday.  Reservations are available for Friday, Saturday and Sunday dinner service.  903 Penn Avenue.  412-471-THAI (8424).

Sinful Sweets Chocolate Company has also recently opened in the space adjacent to Nicky’s, at 901 Penn Avenue.  Owned by chocolatier Christopher George, the shop sells a variety of handmade, gourmet chocolates.  Open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday.  412-235-7865

- Rose Tea Café is opening a second location on Oakland’s Craig Street (414 S. Craig Street).  The original Squirrel Hill location (5874 Forbes Avenue) is well known for its Taiwanese cuisine, considered to be among the best in Pittsburgh.  The new location replaces a former mail store which closed last year.  412-421-2238.

- The Grateful Deli & Catering Company has opened at the intersection of Penn Avenue and Main Street, one block from the Children’s Hospital.  The deli offers hoagies, soup, salad, pizza, and more.  It replaces a portion of the former Sammy's Famous Corned Beef.  4065 Penn Avenue.  412-682-8000.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore

Eat + Drink: Inca Peruvian downtown; D.Jís Butcher Block; La Palapa Mexican Cuisine; and more

Eat + Drink is Pop City's roundup of Pittsburgh's food scene.


•  AJ's Inca Peruvian Restaurant opened this week in Downtown Pittsburgh at 500 Liberty Avenue.  Peruvian-style rotisserie chicken is the star here, along with a variety of other Peruvian dishes.  The restaurant is located in the former Cuzamil space, just outside Market Square.  Open Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., and Saturday, noon to 8 p.m.  412-642-6606.

•  In North Oakland, Legume has re-launched its adjoining bar space under the name Butterjoint.  The word refers to a type of brickwork masonry known for its simplicity and elegance.  Chef Trevett Hooper says it’s a metaphor for how food is prepared at Legume, and now at Butterjoint.

Hooper says the redesigned bar menu—with fare such as pierogies and burgers— now offers substantial meals at a lower price than in the restaurant.  He hopes it will allow Legume’s loyal customers to visit more frequently.  It’s the same quality meat and produce, he says, just with a more straightforward preparation.

The space itself has been reconfigured to provide a more comfortable dining experience.  A weekly variety show, featuring music, comedy, spoken word and magicians, is held on Tuesdays.  And bar manager Will Groves was brought on to revamp the beer and cocktail menu.  214 North Craig Street.  412.621.2700.

•  D.J.’s Butcher Block Specialty Sausage and Meats opened recently in Bloomfield, a small storefront shop offering fresh, cured, and smoked sausage, grass-fed beef, as well as local chicken and turkey.

For the past three years, owner/butcher D.J. Smulick, a former chef at Café Sam, has offered products at various farmers markets.  Smulick sources a majority of meats from local vendors, and seeks to offer high quality products that remain affordable. 

D.J’s also stocks a small selection of local cheese, eggs, pickles, mustards and jellies.  Smulick doesn’t want to become a grocery store, he says, rather he’s just offering a few products that complement the meats.  4623 Liberty Avenue.  412-621-3100.

Also in Bloomfield, multiple sushi restaurants have opened, including Ginza (412-688-7272), at 4734 Liberty Avenue.  And more recently, Fukuda Sushi, which is BYOB, opened in the former Stagioni storefront, at 4770 Liberty Avenue.  And on Sundays, Chef Matt Kemp offers an evening menu at East Liberty’s AVA Lounge.  412-377-0916.

•  La Palapa Mexican Cuisine is the latest food purveyor to join the growing list of vendors at the Strip District’s Pittsburgh Public Market.  Friday through Sunday La Palapa will offer a variety of tamales, quesadillas chilangas, chiles rellenos, frijoles charros, enchiladas, and desserts including flan.    412-992-7206.

Also in the Strip, the Thin Man Sandwich Shop is opening soon at 50 21st Street, in the former 21st Street Coffee and Tea location.  Owners and chefs Dan and Sherri Leiphart have previously worked at Isabela on Grandview, the former Le Pommier, and Lidia's Pittsburgh.  The Leipharts are aiming to bring their classically trained experience to a more relaxed and casual atmosphere. 

•  Wilkinsburg has been a dry borough for the past 80 years.  But now, the Wilkinsburg Community Development Corporation (WCDC) is pushing for a ballot referendum to allow liquor licenses in the community.  It’s cited as a tool for economic development, as alcohol sales could help draw hotels, fine dining, and other entertainment options to the borough.  Visit WCDC’s website to learn more.

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore     

East End Book Exchange to open in Bloomfield on Friday

The East End Book Exchange has grown from a small stall in the Pittsburgh Public Market to a new storefront location in Bloomfield, and a grand-opening celebration will be held this Friday evening to mark the transition.

Owner Lesley Rains says the move from a smaller footprint to a brick-and-mortar shop had always been a long-term goal, but that demand and interest in the exchange moved her business quicker than expected into this new phase. 

Located at 4754 Liberty Avenue, the new shop joins The Big Idea Cooperative Bookstore and Café on the avenue, turning this stretch of Bloomfield into a budding literary destination.  Rains says that in this current bookseller climate— with heavy competition from Amazon and e-book sales—brick-and-mortar sellers have to work together.

“I think proximity can only help bookstores,” Rains says.  “I think we can hopefully over the long-term create a little book neighborhood."

According to Rains, the East End Book Exchange is a general interest used bookstore featuring genres such as fiction, poetry and history, as well as gardening and cook books.

“It’s just meant to be a place where whether you’re an avid reader or more of an occasional reader you can come here and find something,” she says. 

The exchange will also feature an extensive children’s books section, with bean bag chairs and activities for young readers.  And adults, meanwhile, will find lamp-lit nooks with couches and chairs, allowing guests to read and relax while they browse.  Rains hopes the shop will be a comfortable new space for neighbors to meet and gather.

And while the shop opens on Friday evening, it’s still a work in progress, as Rains grows her business from an 80-squarefoot booth to a 1,600-squarefoot storefront.

““We’re still growing,” she says.  “One of the things we like about this space is that there’s still a lot of space to add more bookshelves.” 

The grand-opening celebration will be held this Friday, November 16th, from 6 to 8 p.m. 

 
Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lesley Rains

The Big Idea Bookstore celebrates grand opening of new cafe in Bloomfield, 11th anniversary

The Big Idea Bookstore is celebrating the grand opening of its new café in Bloomfield as it also celebrates 11 years in business.  And for the rest of the week the store will be offering 11% off new and used books to commemorate the occasion.

After relocating to a more prominent location on Liberty Avenue last year, the worker-owned cooperative, which specializes in radical literature, launched a Kickstarter campaign in February with hopes to start a new café. The campaign was successful and surpassed its goal, raising over $3,000, enough for café equipment and a hot water system, as well as costs related to permits, inspections, and various other start-up goods.

Talon Smith, a Big Idea volunteer/worker-owner, says her vision for the café was to be a comfortable place for casual reading or working, able to suit the needs of any patron.

“If that means not buying anything and just hanging out and spending time and talking to us, that's fine,“ she says. “We're ok with that.”

For volunteer Brian Werner, that freedom to ask questions and explore various subjects is what originally attracted him to The Big Idea.

“I've always liked being here because it's just a safe place to explore ideas in literature that for the most part you don't often have access to,” he says, a place to demystify various ideologies, like anarchism, that can seem alienating or unapproachable to some people.

The café offers locally-roasted, fair trade coffee from Building New Hope; vegan wraps, salads, and sandwiches from Strictly Business and the Greek Gourmet; baked goods from My Goodies Bakery; and sodas from the Natrona Bottling Company.

In addition to the new café, Big Idea’s new storefront is more than double in size than the previous location. Now at over 1600 square-feet, the bookstore has been able to host a variety of programming, from reading groups and book signings, to yoga and bicycle safety classes.

On May 20th, Judith Redline Coopey will read from her latest novel, Waterproof: A Novel of the Johnstown Flood.


Writer: Andrew Moore
Source: Talon Smith, Brian Werner, Lars Peterson

Thai Cuisine celebrates grand re-opening, expansion in Bloomfield

Fans of Bloomfield’s Thai Cuisine can once again enjoy that restaurant’s signature curry and noodle dishes, as it recently celebrated a grand re-opening on Liberty Avenue.  The restaurant has operated in the same location since 2001, but had closed for major renovations last year after its owners purchased one of two storefronts it then occupied.

Now located exclusively within the 4627 Liberty Avenue storefront, Thai Cuisine seats up to 75 guests, and has gained additional square-footage with additions to the building’s rear.  Renovations include an expanded, industrial kitchen, raised ceilings, tile floors, and three new windows along Pearl Street. 

Co-owner Lisa Jirachertchoowong says the restaurant had hoped to re-open much sooner, but that it was well worth the wait, as everyone, especially the kitchen staff, is very happy with the new look and added space.

In addition to classic Thai curries and Pad Thai, Jirachertchoowong says her restaurant features a variety of weekly specials, such as a recent spicy duck entrée, and a spicy, crispy trout, topped with Thai chilies, cashews, cilantro, and lime juice, over a bed of lettuce.

While the restaurant was closed, Jirachertchoowong and brother Chai lent a helping hand to their sister June, while she was busy opening the South Hill’s first Thai restaurant, Thai Spoon.

Jirachertchoowong, who lives just a few blocks away, says she has felt very much at home in Bloomfield since day one.  With the purchase and renovation of their Liberty Avenue storefront, Jirachertchoowong says her family hopes to be in the neighborhood for a long time to come. 

Thai Cuisine is open for lunch and dinner, Tuesday through Sunday, and takes reservations for parties of 5 or more.  The restaurant is BYOB, and charges only $1 per wine glass, with no charges for beer.
 

Writer:  Andrew Moore
Source:  Lisa Jirachertchoowong
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